Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries in the world, with 84% of its 147 million people living on less than $2 per day. Millions of impoverished women work in unregulated informal jobs such as rag picking, farming, brick breaking, domestic service, sex work and sewing. They are vulnerable to violence, illness and exploitation and are without political power or influence.

In Dhaka, in response to high levels of poverty, inequality and unemployment faced by informal women workers, five community women’s associations joined to form the Partnership of Women in Action (PaWA) to give the most disempowered women in society a voice.

TRAID funded the Bangladeshi human rights organisation Nagorik Uddyog (The Citizens Initiative) to enable PaWA members to establish five textile businesses providing 500 extremely poor women with work and a regular income. Being in employment also helped over 3,000 wider family members. TRAID provided start-up costs and a revolving fund. 300 women were also trained in advanced sewing and embroidery techniques, marketing, business and financial management.

By the end of the project, 500 extremely poor women were earning regular incomes by working in the five businesses established with seed funding from TRAID. The businesses produce saris, bed covers, cushions, salwar, kamees and curtains which are sold door-to-door and in the PaWA shop.

Each business is located in a different slum of Dhaka and all benefited from being part of the PaWA enterprise with access to training and shared equipment. As part of the project, two shops have been opened and for the first time, a Dalit women’s group has opened a shop in the city centre of Dhaka.